“That We Might have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)
Judges Chapters Two Through Seven
Victorious Against Impossible Odds
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites failed to get rid of all the heathen people in the Promised Land as God had commanded them to do. Instead they intermarried with them and worshiped their idols.
These acts of rebellious disobedience brought down God’s wrath on the people. Instead of driving out their enemies before them as He had for Joshua, the Lord now left some of the nations in among His people “that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD” (3:4).
As time went on, a recurring cycle developed. The people would fall away; God would allow their enemies to overtake them; they would repent and cry to the Lord; and the Lord in His mercy would send a judge to save them.
In chapter six we find the Israelites experiencing terrible oppression. For seven years the Lord had been allowing the “people of the East” (6:2), the Midianites and the Amalekites, to run roughshod over His people because they had done “evil in the sight of the LORD” (6:1). As a result, “Israel was greatly impoverished . . . and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD” (6:6).
It was then that the Angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon as he secretly threshed grain, telling him that the Lord was sending him to defeat the Midianites. Soon afterward the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he called on four northern tribes to send men to fight.
Gideon was not without his doubts, however. As Gideon waited for the troops to assemble, God granted him two special requests to underscore that God was with him. On the first night, as Gideon requested, God caused a fleece to be wringing wet with dew, but the ground was completely dry. The next night the exact opposite occurred: the fleece was dry while the ground was wet.
We might be quick to judge Gideon for his lack of trust in God, but we need to remember that Gideon was facing an army that the inspired author describes as “numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude” (7:12). According to human standards, such an army was invincible! Such an enemy would strike fear into the heart of even the most experienced general.
God Gives The Victory
We can take great comfort and reassurance as we witness God’s dealing with Gideon. When we see God mercifully and patiently strengthen and build up his faith, we better understand the way God is merciful and patient with us as He strengthens us through His Word in our doubts. God told Gideon: “The LORD is with you!” (6:12) He tells us the same: “Lo, I am with you always . . . !” (Mt. 28:20)
When all the men had gathered, they totaled 32,000. The LORD said to Gideon: “The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me'” (7:2).
So first the Lord commanded Gideon to send home all those who were afraid; that left him with 10,000–still too many. Next the Lord thinned the ranks by choosing only the 300 men who drank water by raising their hands to their mouth instead of getting down on hands and knees to drink. It was with these 300 men that the Lord would give the victory to the Israelites.
Under cover of darkness, Gideon and the men surrounded the camp of the Midianites, each of them armed with a trumpet, an empty pitcher, and a torch. At the signal, they all blew their trumpets and shattered the pitchers–uncovering the torches–and shouted: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” (7:18) At that, a mass slaughter ensured in the enemy camp, as “the Lord set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled. . . .” (7:22)
We cannot help but notice to whom all credit and glory belongs for this phenomenal victory over the Midianites! It was God who granted His people the victory against the impossible odds of an army much larger than theirs.
It is that same God who today does battle for us when we are facing situations which seem insurmountable. And most importantly, through His Son God has fought against those enemies which are impossible for us to conquer on our own–sin, death, and the devil. It is God who gives us the victory over them through our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be glory and thanksgiving forever!
–Pastor Paul Krause